So we hit issue 50. It seems amazing. Thank you to all our readers!
Issue 51 is due out in April and we may have new things to hopefully delight. One sad happening during these four years lies in the almost total demise of new contemporary religious music recordings in the UK, allied to another fact that US releases of which there are quite a few, no longer find UK issue. So to there as been a staggering closure of religious shop outlets and places where music can be purchased. That said companies have gone to the wall, and not always due to poor sales.
On the publishing side existing companies issue US material, although tereis some home-grown publishing, especially in the biblical and theological field. It seems beyond belief that even London has no central purchasing shop with Church House in Westminster the seemingly almost sole survivor to offer a wide coverage of titles, magazines and some music releases, although the latter in stock are mainly of classical or of hymn singing
JESUS MUSIC AND BEYOND
Saturday April 22 sees the Premier Gospel Awards 2017, termed the biggest and most dedicated Gospel music celebration in the UK. Talking about this forthcoming event gave rise to the question of: which ‘Gospel’ song has exercised the most influence on the secular music world? Surely the answer is ’Oh Happy Day’. And for anyone who wants to play-catch up I can tell you that on Amazon 3639 copies of the Edwin Hawkins hit single of the song were available on March 1, 2017 in either CD or vinyl format, but since its first release in Spring 1969 sales have run into the millions with a worldwide appreciation.
For many church people, or the general music follower of record charts, black gospel arrived in this joyous hit. And to think that at least in lyric here is an 18th century composition of the English nonconformist minister Philip Doddridge, plus a refrain added by Edward Rimbault, an English organist, musicologist, book collector and author, that is based on Acts 8:35.
In its original form it’s a four line verse, no refrain, and given as ‘O Happy day that fixed my choice” it makes Hymns and Psalms, but not, alas, in any form, in the 21 century commendable Singing the Faith. In the US it appears in the wondrous African Heritage Hymnal (359) and the New Baptist Hymnal (373). 2001 saw publication of the former collection that is seen by the US black church as a necessary instalment on continued spiritual liberation and takes its place beside an African Bible and an African history book.
At the end of the tempestuous Sixties decade new life for the words came with musical clothing in the form of a bouncing tempo and rhythm, with a drum set and congo drums. Vocally there is a “golden toned” alto in Dorothy Morrison, who is backed with a fresh invigorating sounding choir that is so charged that you fear it might lose control, and not to forget, so important in Gospel music, there is piano accompaniment par excellence. The singers were the Northern California State Youth Choir 46 strong and aged between 17 to 25. 500 copies of an album were pressed, and sold, then another 1000.It had been recorded on a two-track machine, Popular radio play alerted the Buddah record company who would release it across the USA. They preferred a more commercial sounding name for the choir – and so was born, The Edwin Hawkins Singers. In the US it would top the charts but if some saw the Gospel taken into any home where the music of the day was heard, there was naturally those who thought it debased the song to have it played amidst the Beatles and Bob Dylan, let alone teen pop.
Hawkins is instanced saying: ”I think they thought they were doing the right thing. What confused me about it was they were teaching us all our lives that we were to take the message everywhere.” In the UK it reached number two in days when records sold – it was stopped in its tracks by ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko.’ credited to the Beatles.
On a different and cultural level, not forgetting religious influence, Horace Clarence comments his book The Golden Age of Gospel that Hawkins had synthesized not only what earlier great gospel musicians had developed, but the entire singing tradition of Africa Americans since they adopted Christianity, without which there would not be gospel music.” The principal sacred music of many African American churches became part of American popular music.
There are outside of the Hawkins treatment some forty versions, mostly they have died a death, save for the gem that can be found on YouTube via Aretha Franklin., and who unsurprisingly fetches another mood and feel from this glorious song, There is also a fairly astonishing version of Aretha with Mavis Staples – two God given vocal wonders of recent time. YouTube turns up versions from the Edwin Hawkins singers, but on some renderings the vocal does not come from Dorothy Morison. YouTube also carries a version by the London Community Gospel Choir. In HMV ‘s gospel’ section you should find a Hawkins version on the album Gospel – the Essential album. Should you want Aretha on disc, vinyl and CD, then look for the exceptional double set album One, Lord, One Faith, One Baptism and where you will find the duet with Mavis. For the unexpected there is the album 0h Happy Day, an all-star celebration of gospel, spiritual and rock that has a version from Queen Latifah. You can turn to Spotfiy for her rendering that has a fiery arrangement in brass and voice and serves up a funky fare.
One thing is sure – if you want a faith uplift then let yourself run with this song. Wonderful! (This first appeared in the British, Methodist Recorder dated March 10. 2017)
JAZZ AND CHRISTIAN WORSHIP EXPRESSION
Tony Jasper says the relationship has long been established and illustrates where and when, and offers guidance for jazz in worship, and along the way recalls a BBC programme that he wrote and presented on the subject.
The question! Is asked - ‘ Can jazz have a role in worship ? ((Methodist Recorder UK March 3.p19). Jazz in worship may or may not be desired or wanted, but the question seemingly sets aside the simple fact that jazz has been around a long, and there is detailed documentation for the finding that jazz and worship have actually had a long relationship, although admittedly save for some large public outbursts that have grabbed media sources the fruits of this relationship have remained fairly well hidden.
To the credit of the adventurous people at London’s Methodist Central Hall a regular jazz and worship evening gathering has established itself and received much praise, but for some twenty years, until fairly recent, London’s Lutheran church then based at St Anne’s, in Gresham Street had a monthly jazz service where I was often privileged to be preacher. So to, at the majestic St Paul’s in the time when Lucy Winkett was its Precentor huge numbers gathered for worship in the musical context and feel of blues and jazz, with on one occasion the Methodist, Apple theatre founder, Peter Moreton bringing his blues and jazz skilled acumen before around four hundred people. It seemed a million miles from the polite hymn singing of the conventional number declining chapel, not that either event was raucous or spicy, just the ‘feel, a sense of the Spirit moving among the people, to bring us into His presence.
Still, the basic concept was hardly new. In historical reference jazz and worship has its roots in black and often gospel culture. It takes not surprisingly to the USA. Take the book The Jazz of Preaching – How to Preach with Great Freedom and Joy (Abingdon) where Kirk Byron Jones finds jazz, improvisation, creativity being open to the Spirit, and not being confined by preconceive ideas as to what music is, and is not. Come to the music catalogue of the great Duke Ellington, someone who always thought of himself as a religious composer, and so would produce majestic sacred concerts that moved from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to Coventry Cathedral and St Paul’s, London. Previous to this his specific spiritual pieces can take s back to the 1935 film S Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro life where he featured music entitle ‘Hymn of Sorrow,’ and the glorious ‘Come Sunday’ that first made its appearance as part of Black, Brown and Beige. Later the great Mahalia Jackson would record the song with the Duke. The renowned music critic Jeremy Begbie writing in The Christian Century compared the piece with the works of Messiaen and Ronault in its power to portray human experience in the light of the fall and resurrection.
Janna Steel writing in the fore-mentioned journal. sometime research fellow at Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music, Worship and the Arts, and a minister of the United Methodist Church, reminds of an Ellington line: “All my music comes directly from the book of life. She adds the thought that has direct reference to anyone who might question jazz and worship by the down-to-earth comment: “In the Sacred Concerts he gathered up huge slices of life – secular and sacred, trivial and profound, earthly and ethereal and expressed them in his eclectic musical language.”
On BBC Radio four one evening I took the listener through many areas of jazz and worship, and noted the many releases with a religious theme, not least the Courtney Pine track ‘Sunday Song’ from his album Journey To The Urge Within, and his comment that he wished the capture the ‘spirit of the 7th day and all the peace it brings,’ and Donald Bryd’s ‘BrothEr Isaac’ from his “ Trying to get Home,” and for another, Ornette Coleman’s “New and Old Gospel” album where from his background of the US South he sets to capture the rhythm and feel of “Sounds of the people happy they’ve just ad a blessing.” To touch one just two more mentions from that programme, the momentous ‘A Love Supreme’ from John Coltrane and the album Lift Every Voice from Charles Lloyd and where his so spiritual touch to ‘Amazing Grace’ simply takes you into the Presence.
Jazz and worship? Ornette Coleman puts it this way: “There’s no bad music, only bad musicians.” Our inspiring Methodist, Anthony Reddie to has some interesting words and would expand the subject a little when he speaks of jazz and preaching: “Just as a jazz musician has to respond to the unique concept of every performance, bringing new knowledge to life, in a split second of a moment, so too must the preacher.”
And bring on board the late and revered musicologist Erik Routley, who somewhat surprisingly wrote in his book Twentieth Century Church Music: “ Those who try..to dismiss jazz as something trivial, have been sufficiently exposed an convicted of false arrogance by many serious writers.” Jazz in worship can of course come in many forms and more popular than any is Trad Jazz, and certainly many A traditional tunes such as Converse (What a friend we have in Jesus) lends itself well, as of the blues, spiritual and, gospel, and here take a bow songs such as ‘Just A closer walk with Thee’ or ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ or ‘When the Saints’ and ‘Steal Away to Jesus.’ For a record on this genre and a guide to jazz and worship, the powerful George Lewis recording ‘Jazz Funeral in New Orleans’ and which in recent time has given the underwriting to funerals in a place such as London’s, Stoke Newington.
Jazz and worship – bring it on!
CONTEMPORARY MUSIC CHATTER
PLEASE tell me why Ed Sheeran is sweeping all before him.
Is he so good that he has basically made one of the weekly UK charts look almost stupid since he has16 entries! Spotfiy and the like now contribute to charts, as opposed to the one time sales over the counter only, hence the proliferation of his titles.
Then, to go back in time a little for music memories, I bought a 5 classic album set of Traffic but sorry, disappointed. Too many “filler” cuts, maybe at the time it was OK to have lengthy instrumental outings that went nowhere in particular. I have recollections of guitarists who played with their back to the audience. And then for a pound I bought ‘0ut of Nothing’ by Embrace – a group kind-a missed. It went platinum this album.
The sleeve has a selection of more-or-less ‘rave’ reviews, and for me, some good melodies, useful songs, but not exactly ”colossal” as seen that way by London’s, Evening Standard. Also for a pound in Poundland, I picked up Pictures from Katie Melua. She charms me, with her lovely voice and vocal phrasing. Two other albums picked up for a mere pound: Lose from Nelly Furtado and why not I thought, a pound for Small World, Big Band from Jools Holland. My music loves run across numerous genres, and yes for a pound: Heavenly from Ladysmith Black Mambazo has some fine cuts .One oldie worth
Looking out for on a rock-religious frame of reference is Oh Happy Day. Well, yes the Hawkins hit is there, but also some great tracks from Jon Bon Jovi, Aaron Neille, the superb Rupert Randolph and Queen Latifan. Blind Faith once brought us ‘In the Presence of the Lord’ and on this set there is a version by 3 Doors Down. I still enthuse over the free CD sets that come with monthly Mojo and Uncut magazines The latest gives 15 tracks of cosmic roots. So much value. Jeff Beck’s lateist, and they come rarely, is the album Loud Hailer. It’s one of those sets that needs playing – it grows on you.
My big discovery on CD at a record fair was Dylan & Dead which previously I only possessed a concert tape. Just 7 cuts and a play of just under 50 minutes. Two religious songs included are ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’. And there is the classic Old Testament referenced ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ Along the way I picked up Voice of the Beehive and the old album ‘Let It Bee’ and ‘I am Shelby Lynne’.from indeed Ms.Lynne. Last and not least, The Forgotten 45s- 1957-1959 with 90 cuts over tree CDs – well, of course originally issued on vinyl and I note how Sainsbury’s
stocking just grows. As mentioned in a past Crisis, the supermarket is named by industry trade paper Music Week as the biggest seller of vinyl.
In my local pub in the far West of the UK, I’m running group style nights with music, themed food, comps, music and chatter.April 19 is Motown night, May 10, Beatles and I am to build something around Sgt Pepper that hits 50 years of age on June 1. The venue is at 01736740175, near to Penzance. S hould by some miracle of reading of this leads you to come, do introduce yourself – just look for a hunky guy surrounded by females.
John Waddington-Feather is a British poet and playright
Old Edie Smith was a meddlesome wench,
With a tongue which was waspish and strong;
And her son-in-law, Fred, caught the rough end of it
Throughout his married life long.
For Fred had wed her only child
And couldn’t do anything right
In Edie Smith’s eyes; so as a result
Edie nagged him day and night.
But being a placid and kindly bloke
Freddy took it all on the chin,
And shrugged off her squawking all day long
And the babble she levelled at him.
When she died the funeral was left to Fred,
(his wife found it too hard to cope)
But Fred was pleased to see her go
For her death brought him peace and new hope.
Hope, at long last, for a quiet life,
Free from her constant nagging;
So he set about ordering her funeral affairs
With zeal which was real and unflagging.
Edie was put in the family grave
On a day which was dark and lowering;
Black clouds piled up high in the sky,
From horizon to horizon glowering.
But as priest and mourners left her grave
Forked lightning lit up the sky,
And a clap of thunder deafened them all
Rolling round the graveyard on high.
“Blimey!” yelled Fred frightened out of his wits,
Like the rest of those there most unsteady,
“Wherever she’s gone, one this is quite clear,
She’s arrived true to form there already!”
A Cheery Hymn
Two thousand years have come and gone,
Yet Jesus Christ is here,
Bringing all people faith and hope,
Dispelling every fear.
‘Midst gloom and sorrow, hate and strife
Beamed at us by the world,
His banner flies unfailingly,
A rallying flag unfurled.
A Godly symbol of good cheer
In all this dark world’s gloom;
It points us all the way to God
And our eternal home.
Though pain and sorrow we endure
Throughout our earthly life,
Yet you are always near us, Lord,
In trouble and in strife.
We thank you Jesus Christ, our Lord
And ever-loyal friend,
For being at our side in life
And cheerful to its en
C) John Waddington-Feather
(Av suggested tune: ”While shepherds watched their flocks by night” – Winchester Old)
By Brian Frost
Said the jersey,
Faded Billingsgate fish smells
Illuminated the air;
There was Bach Cantata
At St Mary’s
Cobbles and cars everywhere.
G rim inhumanity
Said the towers,
Lapping water kissed,
Caressed the shore;
There was tourist pleasure
On the river,
Bridge and boats
And even fishermen’s lore.
The cross is glittering
Said the Churches
The atmosphere was filled with death;
People had vanished tom the suburbs,
God’s banquet was by the ragworts,
Near tramps’ breath.
(This poem printed with permission comes from Poems of Grief and Glory by Brian Frost, New World Publications)
Garth Hewitt Foundation: From Garth
I Didn't Speak Up
My youngest son Joe sent me an email a few weeks back saying, “You have to sing I Didn’t Speak Up at every concert at the moment.” I Didn’t Speak Up is available on Songs from the Fifth Gospel and was originally on the album Blood Brothers which I did with Ben Okafor - you can hear Ben playing and singing with me on the recorded version.
I Didn’t Speak Up was sparked off by well known words of Pastor Neimoller who was imprisoned during the Second World War under Hitler. When he was released he said these words: “When they came for the Communist I didn’t speak up because I was not a Communist; when they came for the Jew I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew…" and so it goes on and then he says, “But when they came for me there was no one left to speak up.”
I use his words for two verses of the song. I originally wrote it for a weekend where I was doing a talk for a local Amnesty meeting, and also to support a refugee who had sought sanctuary in a church up in Hulme in Manchester. I extended the words that Pastor Neimoller had spoken, and I said, “When they came for the Muslim I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Muslim,” and, “When they came for the Palestinian I didn’t speak up because I was not a Palestinian."
Joe, who lives in the United States, is quite right that I need to be singing this song at the moment. With the terrible criticism of Muslim and Mexican, there is a hatred of 'the other' at the moment that is being fostered.
Lord Dubs' Amendment
So too in our own country - the disgraceful rejection this week of Lord Dubs' Amendment - so that instead of taking the 3000 child refugees we have taken just over 300, leaving the others to roam the streets of Europe in tremendous danger, some trying to get back to Calais, some in the dreadful circumstances of Dunkirk.
I find it deeply heartbreaking; we seem to have become a very nasty country, proud of keeping 'the other' out. I wrote a song last year called Little Boy Down, it was the story of Aylan Kurdi, the little lad who was found drowned on the beach. I put the song in my Christmas album Peace at Christmas because the Christmas story has a very sad part to it - the killing of young babies in Bethlehem because Herod is worried that someone will usurp his power; so Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee to protect the life of Jesus - down they went, through Gaza and into North Africa.
Years ago I wrote a song called Isaiah 58 - my son Tom was working with a street children’s project of that name. The song was sparked off by the death of one of the street children, called Siseiko Sisulu. They hadn’t managed to get him off the streets and he got terribly beaten up. Tom was called in the middle of the night and got him to the hospital, but sadly he died. So my song Isaiah 58 is all about doing justice. The second verse is about when Jesus came to Africa where he found shelter as a refugee.
Siseiko Sisulu, they killed him on the street
Fourteen years old but they killed him on the street,
Treated him like nothing, treated him like dirt,
But he was loved and precious to the very heart of God.
Isaiah 58, Isaiah 58,
You’re not nobody, you’re somebody at Isaiah 58, Isaiah 58
When Jesus came to Africa he was a refugee,
But he found food and shelter when he was a refugee;
And I believe he’s grateful, he’s grateful to this day,
“You’re not nobody, you’re somebody,” is what I hear him say.
Isaiah 58, Isaiah 58,
You’re not nobody, you’re somebody at Isaiah 58, Isaiah 58
In the song Little Boy Down the chorus goes:
What we gonna do, will we close our eyes
What we gonna do, keep 'em out, let 'em die
Or return them to the country from which they’ve had to flee
Tonight I think God is watching you and me
That I believe very deeply - God is watching how we respond. And those of us who walk the Christian road know the values of the kingdom of God, the community of justice that should show love to our neighbour. Now is the time to speak up.
We will find different ways to express our concern, but let’s not be the silent ones. Whether it’s over refugees, or whether it’s over the historical mistreatment of the Palestinians.
The Balfour Declaration
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which stated,
"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..."
Alex Awad, pastor and academic with whom our groups would meet regularly at Bethlehem Bible College, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May telling of his family’s story and of the impact of the Balfour Declaration on his people. He is asking for action from Britain who acted in a colonial way to deprive him and his people of their land and their homes. Click here to read Alex Awad's letter.
And then Abdelfattah Abusrour, founder and director of Al-Rowwad Centre for Culture and Arts, one of our partners in Palestine from the Aida refugee camp, has also written an open letter to her - he too asks for Theresa May to listen to his story.Click here to read Abdelfattah Abusrour's letter.
I think many others will write to her, and maybe we can do the same - write to her, and to our local MPs, perhaps sharing their letters, just saying - what are we going to do when one section of the Balfour Declaration was completely ignored and still is completely ignored? It is a failure of British colonialism to take someone’s land with no compensation. But something could be done - this could be the year to bring peace to the Holy Land - but that peace will only come when there is justice for the Palestinians. Then both communities, Palestinian and Israelis, can enjoy peace and security.
When people spoke up - the anti-war protest in London, February 15, 2003
I suspect in these uncertain times this may be a year when we have to speak up quite often. But that is ok - we will simply be affirming the value of everyone made in the image of God.
My daughter in Nashville has been demonstrating with a large women’s group and then they go to the mosque to build friendships and to show their support, and so new friendships are being made, humanity is being affirmed.
Let’s stay steady - because we know the way of the Prince of Peace, we know the way of justice that brings hope.